Paine to Pain half marathon 2016 race report


The Paine to Paine which took place this past Sunday was my first time ever running or joggling an official half-marathon or trail race. An almost, but not quite, new experience for me. This is also my first official race since I injured myself at the Yonkers Marathon last year(it totally healed). As a marathon joggler, I figured a half-marathon should be easy; for the most part, it was. The real challenge of this race is that much of it is an obstacle course of tree roots, jagged rocks, and hilly twists and turns. Good thing I often train on trails!

So I awoke at 6:15 the day of the race, well-rested and ready to take on the trails. I slept really well, and wasn’t nervous at all the night before, unlike how I slept the night before the Yonkers marathon last year. I had my usual breakfast of Weetabix with raisins and sunflower seeds, put on my running attire, grabbed my balls, and I was out the door. Though the race started at 9:00, I wanted to get there extra early, no later than 8:30.

Some people I ran into before the start were shocked over the idea of joggling a trail race. “Seriously, you’re actually going through with this?”, they would ask. “Joggling a road race is difficult enough, but a trail race, come on!”, is another common remark.

The race is called the “Paine to Pain” because it starts at the Thomas Paine cottage in New Rochelle, New York and well, the other “pain” is pretty obvious to anyone who has run it. It is a loop course that goes through several different towns on the Colonial Greenway, of which the Leatherstocking trail is a large sub-section. Since Thomas Paine is a kindred spirit, I love the idea of this race starting at his cottage and being named for him. Regarded as the philosopher of the American revolution, he was a highly influential proponent of Enlightenment values, and was an early abolitionist. I recommend visiting his cottage in New Rochelle if you’re in the area.

We couldn’t have asked for better running weather on race day. “Perfect” doesn’t begin to describe it. Clear skies and in the 50s just before the race and slowly rising into the 60s a few miles in. After months of brutally hot weather, the slight chill in the air at the beginning was more than welcome. My goal was to to complete in less than 2 hours.

So at 9:00 the gun goes off and the first wave of runners is off! Since I was part of the second wave, I had to wait a minute before I could start. Finally nervous with anticipation, I go to the back of wave 2 to avoid being in anyone’s way, and before I know it it’s wave 2’s turn to start.

The support at the start was pretty amazing with lots of spectators lining the streets, many of whom were surprised by my joggling. The first mile of this race is on the streets, so it didn’t feel like the race had really begun until I got to the first leg of the Leatherstocking trail close to the Larchmont border. I took it easy with the first mile, and also with mile 2.

Since I’ve done this trail a few times before, there weren’t any surprises. Juggling while running over rocks and tree roots may sound ridiculously difficult to you, but with enough training it is doable. I kept myself as much to the side as possible in case anyone wanted to pass me on the narrow trail, and a lot of runners did just that. I occasionally passed some slower runners whenever the trail widened. I generally got a lot of support from my fellow runners.

When things got really difficult during some steep rocky climbs, I would ask myself “why the hell am I doing this?”. I finally dropped the balls a little after mile 6 during a minor stumble. The beauty of the morning sun shining through the trees, the sweet birdsong, the earthy aroma of the forest, all while joggling over difficult terrain is an ineffably wonderful experience.

Whenever the trail widened enough and there weren’t too many rocks in the way I increased my speed, often passing a lot of runners. There wasn’t much support out there except at occasional street crossings where the locals and volunteers were pretty enthusiastic. Thank you people of Mamaroneck! When I arrived in Saxon Woods, I was in very familiar territory, having run these trails countless times. After zigzagging its way through the forest and going around these giant glacial rocks, the trail widened to the point that I was able to pick up my pace and pass many other runners in Saxon Woods. I occasionally traded places with a few runners, which got kind of funny after a while. The trail then starts turning south near the Golf course where I finally got some water at around mile 8.

Feeling renewed, I was able to maintain a speedy pace for a few miles, though rocks and slow runners on narrow sections sometimes hindered me. Also my left ankle bothered me a little bit at this point since I almost sprained it about a month ago. I dropped again around this point. I asked again “why am I doing this?”, and I would answer myself: “This is who I am”.

At mile 11 we entered Twin Lakes Park, a place I visit so often it’s my second home. Still doing a brisk pace, I dropped yet again and felt really frustrated that time. In part this frustration was due to being so familiar with this area because of all the joggling and unicycling I have done there. Surely I should know this area like the back of my hand. Going south, the trail snakes its way under the Hutchinson River Parkway and now we’re in Nature Study Woods on the wild periphery of New Rochelle.

Knowing I don’t have much longer to go before I reach the finish line at New Rochelle high school, I convince myself to push myself even more to make sure I complete in under 2 hours. I’m starting to feel a little sore, but it didn’t significantly slow me. At this point there are a few rocks here and there but they were easy to run around.

Finally, we’re out of the dark woods and into the bright sunlit streets again for the last mile, with lots of spectators and cheerleaders cheering us on.

I see the high school in the distance and start running like a maniac. 300 meters or so from the finish line and I drop one last time. I cross the finish line and I’m ecstatic, and so is everyone watching.

I finished in 2:01:25, with an average pace of 9:16/mile. Just a tiny bit faster and I could have finished in under 2 hours(my half-marathon PR when training on roads is 1:39), but I still felt elated over my accomplishment. Though I dropped the balls 4 times, I didn’t fall once. Though I felt fatigued, I didn’t feel as bad as I normally do at the end of a full marathon.

This really is a great race not just for connecting with history but for connecting with nature without having to travel too far from the big city. Some parts of the trail, particularly in Saxon Woods, take you through wilderness zones that make you feel like you are a thousand miles away from civilization.

All in all this was a great race experience, even with all the drops. It definitely was a worthwhile challenge joggling a trail race. I often found it more intellectually than physically challenging; what long-term effect this may have on the brain remains unknown but I’m excited about the possibilities.

A big thanks to Founding Father Eric Turkewitz for organizing this event and allowing me to joggle it. I’d also like to thank all the good-humored volunteers for making this an amazing race experience. Congratulations to everyone who completed this event, it was a pleasure running with you.


Related post:

Paine to Pain Trail Half Marathon 2016



My Segment on Plant-Based by Nafsika

In case you missed my segment on Plant-Based by Nafsika:

Plant-Based by Nafsika premieres on Wednesday — I’ll be a guest on August 24th


The vegan lifestyle show we’ve all been waiting for is finally here! Called Plant-Based by Nafsika, the show is hosted by amazing vegan mogul Nafsika Antypas who will guide us on a wide-ranging tour of veganism through engaging interviews with trailblazing vegan doctors, activists, athletes, chefs, and fashion designers, among others.

Calling itself “The world’s first vegan lifestyle TV series”, Plant-Based by Nafsika aims to show the world how healthy and fun the vegan lifestyle can be. This educational and inspirational new show will premiere on Wednesday, June 27, 7:30 AM EST on the FYI network. The rumors that I was invited to be a guest are actually true! My segment, in which I discuss joggling and unicycling for fun and fitness will air on August 24th. The launch of this show, besides many other positive developments makes this an especially exciting time to be a vegan! Be sure to tune in!

Plant-based by Nafsika TV Show glimpse


15 Years of Being Vegan

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It’s official! I have been a vegan for 15 years. Looking back through the mists of time, I vaguely remembered that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to function at all for a year as a vegan, let alone eventually thrive and joggle sub-4 hours marathons. It wasn’t easy at first, but after about 6 months I got used to it and there was no turning back. My going vegan doesn’t change the fact that billions of animals are still getting slaughtered every year for meat, for fur, and in labs, but it’s my own small way to not contribute to this endless horror and hopefully help move things in the right direction.

If you are interested in going vegan, here’s some resources and advice gained from being a vegan for 15 years: First, check out Vegan 101: Planning Healthy Vegan Diets so that you’re up to speed with what you need to know to be a healthy vegan. Not sure what you’re going to eat every day? Then here’s a 21-Day Vegan Meal Plan from the PCRM. Oh She Glows also has tons of vegan recipes so that you never run out of ideas. It’s an exciting time to be a vegan, with so many options out there and growing.

When people come to me for advice on being vegan, I give them advice that is practical, easy to follow, and science-based. Practicality does not mean sacrificing nutrition or flavor, it simply means making the diet and lifestyle easy to stick to for people with busy lives. Rice and beans, pasta and vegetables, oatmeal, and peanut butter(or tahini) and jelly sandwiches are what I commonly eat. I admit I sometimes overdo it with the peanut butter. Tofu is a great source of protein and very versatile.

Whenever possible, buy food in bulk to save money, cook in bulk and don’t believe the fear-mongering about microwaves. You don’t need to buy organic. You don’t need to learn the origin of every food ingredient overnight to see if it is vegan or not, so don’t stress yourself out over this. Take your time learning about these ingredients.

Take a B-12 supplement. You may also require iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamin D which you can get from some vegan supplements or enriched foods. You can get omega 3s by eating flaxseeds and walnuts. In my experience, people who fail at veganism were probably deficient in one or more of these vital nutrients. They either weren’t supplementing or they weren’t eating enough nutritious, well-balanced meals.

A little over 10 years ago I came down with anemia for a few months, even though I regularly ate high iron plant foods. An iron supplement quickly reversed this and I was back to my regular rigorous athletic activities. Keep in mind that plant iron is much more difficult to absorb than animal derived iron and that vitamin C helps you absorb more iron. Consult a doctor or dietitian before taking anything to ensure you are getting the proper dosage from a reputable source.

Last but not least, ignore the fads. Fad diets come and go, but veganism at its essence is no fad. These overly restrictive diets make it so difficult to stick with the lifestyle that they greatly increase your chances of becoming an ex-vegan, and believe me, I know a lot of ex-vegans. What fads am I referring to? I mean rawfoodism, “clean” eating, paleo-veganism, macrobiotics, gluten-free, alkaline diet, oil-free, “detox” diets, as well as countless hybrids of these pointless distractions. Also, don’t buy into the hype about “superfoods”. My 10 Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan goes into detail about why these diets are nonsensical and potentially harmful.

If you are eating a balanced whole food vegan diet, these fad diets do nothing to improve your diet or make you healthier. By and large, these diets, which have nothing to do with veganism, are based on pseudoscience and virtually no reputable health professionals recommend them. Ignore, or better yet, laugh at the pesky food police on social media who are quick to castigate anyone for adding olive oil to food or eating processed food or nuts in moderation. The gurus who promise perfect health are best avoided.

By following the advice offered above, and embracing science and critical thinking, you shouldn’t have any major issues adjusting to a vegan lifestyle. This is really all you need to know to get started. I hope you found this information useful. If you think I left out something important, please leave a comment. If you have any questions please post something in the comments or email me, I love to help people transition to a more cruelty-free lifestyle.


Screenshot from 2016-06-06 16:10:13

I took this a few weeks ago during an 18 mile joggling run. The water is the Long Island Sound.



Becoming a better unicyclist

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“Do something crazy with your energy, and you’ll always get back more than you put in” – C.P

The world of unicycling is the gift that keeps on giving. When I purchased my first unicycle last year, I realized it would take a lot of skill to be able to ride it compared to a bicycle. I knew it would take a lot of practice and getting better would likely be frustrating at times, especially after upgrading to a larger unicycle and having to relearn certain skills. Since my last unicycling report on April 18, I’ve been training on a regular basis with my 29″ unicycle and have improved in a number of ways:

  • Instead of 6.5 miles per hour on long rides, I can now ride at 8 miles per hour
  • I can go up big hills. A few days ago I climbed an 80 foot hill with an average grade of 10% without stumbling or dismounting
  • I can now idle a little on the 29″ unicycle, for 20 cycles at most
  • I can juggle while unicycling for up to 2 miles without dropping, 3.5 miles with a few drops; I can even juggle while going up and down hills, so long as they aren’t too steep. My joggling ability definitely helped me with this skill.

In my experience, all it takes to ride faster is feeling more comfortable on the unicycle, and so this it the easiest thing to improve in the short-term.

Idling on the 29″unicycle  was particularly difficult at first. Though I could often idle for several minutes nonstop on my 24″ unicycle, at first I found idling impossible on the 29″. I just couldn’t maneuver the larger wheel the same way I could the 24″, and kept dismounting after dozens of failed attempts. I grew increasingly frustrated with my inability to idle on the 29″, then one day it clicked and I was elated. It was a magical moment. I finally figured it out and 1 idle became 3, then 10, then 20. It’s still much more challenging and tiring than on the 24″, but it’s starting to feel almost natural.

Hills are still a challenge as well. There are steep hills around here that I can easily climb with the 24″ that I still can’t do with the 29″. Juggling while unicycling doesn’t feel like joggling yet, but that will take a little more practice. I still need to work on hopping and going backwards. If you’re new to unicycling and are struggling, just keep on practicing. There are tons of videos on Youtube that give a lot of useful tips. What seems impossible now may soon come easy to you with enough practice.

All in all, I’m enjoying unicycling and the fitness benefits, even if learning certain skills can be frustrating at times. Discovering strange new abilities certainly makes it a worthwhile fitness challenge.

Screenshot from 2016-06-05 19:28:30

Who’s afraid of the big bad coyote?


Photo of an Eastern Coyote, from


Many people in New York state, apparently. And they certainly have the right to be concerned. Due to recent coyote sightings and attacks on pets, New York state issued a rare coyote advisory, telling people to take precautions in areas where coyotes are prevalent. While coyotes have long thrived in rural areas and even the suburbs, they are increasingly being sighted in urban areas, with one yuppie coyote being spotted in Manhattan last year. Though precautions may be necessary in certain areas, people who think we need to start killing them are overreacting.

Since coyotes almost never attack people(except very small children), these precautions are more about protecting pets. Cats and dogs have been known to disappear when left unsupervised in coyote country. In the south-west U.S, house cats are a favorite meal of coyotes and this is also the case in some parts of the eastern U.S. In the north-east, what we call coyotes are actually coy-wolves, a hybrid of coyote and wolf. Coy-wolves are significantly larger than their western cousins, though not necessarily more dangerous.

As far as adult runners, hikers, and other outdoorsy people go, there is little to fear from coyotes or wolves for that matter. I occasionally see coyotes during trail runs, but they always quickly disappear into the dark wilderness, way too fast for me to stop and take a photo. If you see one and they don’t run away, wave your arms around and yell to scare them away.

It’s estimated that there’s around 20,000 to 30,000 coyotes in New York state, far more numerous than a few decades ago. This highly adaptable species has also expanded its range well into the NYC metro area, with a significant presence in Westchester county. I know some people who were terrified when they saw them for the first time in their idyllic suburban neighborhood where nothing interesting ever happens, though the coyote didn’t attack and just quickly ran away.

As predators, coyotes are a vital part of the ecosystem, especially in areas where the deer or lawyer population is exploding(which in New York is everywhere). Rather than living in fear, I believe peaceful coexistence is the best way to deal with them, and taking extra precautions if you have pets or small children. Whatever you do, don’t feed them! If you’re a runner in Westchester county or live in an area with a lot of wilderness, I don’t think you should cancel your trail running plans just because of coyote sightings.



My new 29 inch Nimbus unicycle

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29″ Nimbus Road unicycle

As many of you already know, I purchased my first unicycle in late 2015 because it seemed like the next logical thing to learn after joggling for so many years. After a few months I was able to ride it for long distances and was satisfactory with most basic skills. Though the Club 24 inch unicycle was a perfect introductory model for someone completely new to the enigmatic world of unicycling, it’s far from ideal for going on long treks.

At most on long rides I could average 5.5 miles per hour on the 24″ unicycle. Little kids on their tiny bicycles in the park were often very impressed when they saw me on my unicycle until they realized they could go much faster than me. One minute they totally admire me, the next minute I get no respect! And so I began my search for a faster unicycle, which means a much larger wheel. Eventually it came down to 2 choices: a 36″ unicycle or a 29″ unicycle.

A 36″ unicycle can travel about 12 mph on a long ride, which is roughly equivalent to the average speed of a weekend bicyclist. The drawbacks of a 36″ unicycle are that it’s more difficult to maneuver, it’s a struggle to go up hills, and it takes up a lot of space and costs a lot more than a 29″. Like just about everything else in life, purchasing a unicycle is about making compromises.

A 29″ unicycle can travel at about 7 mph, it’s easier to maneuver and go up hills than with a 36″. Since I live in a hilly area, a 29″ was the obvious choice. So I recently purchased a Nimbus 29″ road unicycle with 125 mm cranks. So far I am loving it and the transition wasn’t as difficult as I originally thought it would be. Unfortunately, I still struggle a little with free-mounting it since the seat and pedals are a little higher than on the 24″.

On average, my speed is 6.5 mph on long rides, much faster than my 24″, but still not as fast as I had hoped(kids often zoom past me). I figure a little more training will improve my speed and my ability to climb steep hills. I was competent with idling on my 24″, but it seems impossible with the 29″(the larger the wheel, the harder it is to idle). So far, I haven’t tried juggling while riding the 29″ since I don’t feel comfortable enough with it yet.

Overall, the Nimbus 29″ feels much more solid than my 24″. The 24″ feels flimsy by comparison. The ride is also smoother on the 29″, handling certain bumpy areas better than the 24″. An oddity is that for some reason I’ve long struggled with right turns on the 24″, while left turning was always comparatively easy. With the 29″, it’s the opposite, but the issue isn’t as noticeable as with the 24″. I’ve long tried to find a defect with the 24″ and couldn’t find anything obviously wrong with it, so I’ve long considered that this discrepancy may be due to having a favored side. Having a favored side isn’t anything unusual, it’s similar to right or left-handedness. However, I still suspect a defect since it would be unusual for my favored side to change based on the unicycle I’m riding.

Even though this unicycle is primarily for road riding, I’ve found that it performs well enough on trails, so long as it’s mostly flat. It would likely be even easier riding trails if I replaced the tire with an off-road type of tire. Since I do very little trail riding, I don’t think I’ll be doing this any time soon.

So far, I am very pleased with the 29″ Nimbus road unicycle, and hope to do a 20 mile ride on it one of these days. I will still use the 24″ for skill development, but the 29″ will be used from now on for anything longer than a few miles.


Check out the Ultra Ordinary Running Podcast

The Ultra Ordinary Running podcast is by the most inspiring, as well as funniest ultra-runners I know. Ultra-runners Melissa, Angela, and Christina are planning on running the Javelina Jundred in October, their first ever 100 mile run. They discuss their training leading up to this event, as well as the smaller, easy races(like 50 milers) they do along the way. They don’t just share a lot of great training tips, they’re also very motivating. Did I mention they’re funny too? Their discussions sometimes venture deep into sports psychology and the occasional tangent.

Even if you’re just a casual runner, they’re definitely worth listening to. Expect to see them on the cover of Runner’s World late this year or some time next year.

Oh, and there’re vegan too!

Documentary about the Vegan Joggler

Thanks to a very talented group of students from Bronxville high school for producing this short film. Although I kind of liked being this mysterious figure and this makes me a lot less of one, I’m still glad I got to share my story since a lot of people find it inspiring. I was very impressed with the finished product, especially the music. I rarely mention the horrible backstory that lead me to take up joggling because it was eons ago and now my joggling is so intertwined with my veganism that I almost forget how it all started.

If you like stories about passion and perseverance, then this is for you. All credit for the documentary goes to Ohto, John George, and Scott; I didn’t film or edit this, that was all their work. There are no special effects. I hope all you fit-freaks and even non-fit-freaks around the world find it informative and inspiring.

Unicycling as the ultimate cross-training

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Unicycling starts to get really interesting when you ride the trails.

Like a lot of athletes, I’m always on the lookout for a cross-training activity that complements my usual regimen. As a joggler, it’s difficult finding something that fits the bill that challenges me in a way that is similar to joggling, but isn’t as strenuous. I’ve sometimes tried simply running, but it often makes me feel like I am regressing from joggling and is otherwise too similar. I also wanted an activity that is easier on the knees. I’ve considered juggling while swimming or “swuggling”, but I don’t have access to a pool.

Screenshot from 2015-10-21 21:04:57

The 24 inch Club unicycle I purchased. This is a good beginner model.

After exploring countless options, I recently “discovered” unicycling, and won the Nobel prize for my amazing discovery. Granted, I’ve always known about unicycling, but for some silly reason or other I didn’t seriously consider taking it up. I used to think it would take too long to learn how to ride one, or that I wouldn’t have enough time, but in late October of last year I finally purchased a 24 inch wheel unicycle. It took about 3 weeks for me to learn to ride forward 500 feet(while recovering from the Yonkers marathon injury), and I am now capable of riding up to 13 miles on it. I can even go up and down hills, so long as they are not too steep.

It should go without saying that it took a lot of practice and patience to get to where I’m at with unicycling, just like how I progressed with joggling. In fact, I can now juggle while unicycling, though very sloppily. I think my joggling ability helped make the transition to juggling while unicycling a lot easier. I can also “idle”, which means pedaling back and forth to stay in the same position without dismounting(which comes in handy when waiting for a traffic light to change), and do a little hopping. Backwards riding I can barely do. Though I’ve taken a bunch of nasty falls, so far I haven’t suffered any serious injuries.

Unicycling just makes perfect sense to me. Similar to juggling/joggling, it’s an aerobic and acrobatic activity that was long ago appropriated by circus performers to the point that few people see it as a sport. Whereas joggling requires a great deal of coordination, unicycling requires a great deal of balance. There’s something about being in “perfect” balance or coordination that brings about a state of euphoria. Unicycling engages the brain in a manner few exercises can approach. Unlike running or joggling, it’s a low impact activity so it gives your knees a break while still providing your legs a great workout.

Unicycling generally requires more effort than bicycling. You always have to pedal if you want to move since you can’t coast on a typical unicycle. This means you burn more calories on a unicycle than on a bicycle when covering the same distance. It’s not as many calories as a person would burn while running, but it is significantly closer.

A lot of people balk at the idea of unicycling as a sport. The association with the circus is still too strong and some people are too self-conscious about all the attention they would get. Besides this, some people see it as inherently dangerous. However, over the past two decades unicycling has become much more popular as an athletic activity for fitness enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers. These days, there are even some gutsy people riding mountain unicycles, which are usually called “municycles”. Some prefer riding long distances on roads or bike paths with large 36 inch wheel unicycles which kind of look like smaller versions of the Victorian era Penny Farthing, except that they lack the tiny rear wheel.

As far as safety goes, as long as you know what you’re doing and wear a helmet and safety gear, it probably isn’t much more dangerous than bicycling. If you are still concerned about safety, keep in mind that unicycles tend to be much slower than bicycles, and if something goes wrong they are easier to bail from since they lack handlebars.

Though I enjoy it for its own sake, I unicycle mainly for cross-training since I still see myself primarily as a joggler. There’s nothing wrong, of course, with making unicycling your main athletic activity. I don’t intend to do a lot of juggling while unicycling, but it’s a good skill set to have since it helps to make your upper and lower body movements more independent of each other.

I am considering doing some cycling events in the future, but haven’t found anything suitable yet. Since I am still a novice, I can’t travel very far on my unicycle yet, but I am getting there. I plan to upgrade to a bigger model soon so I can go much farther. In the mean time, I will enjoy the cross-training benefits of unicycling. Unicycling around the neighborhood after a long joggling run is a great low-impact recovery aid, and is a lot of fun both for me and the local kids(as well as adults) who love all the free entertainment. The mean kids love it when I fall off, of course. On the other hand, the geeky kids enjoy it when I explain the physics of unicycling. Actually, they usually do a better job of explaining it to me. I highly recommend unicycling as a cross-training activity for jogglers and runners alike.

Screenshot from 2016-03-01 10:19:47

My first wheels